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Not Just an Ordinary Pharmacy Student Internship: Northwest Compounders’ Pharmacy Student Internship Program

Pharmacy school is a grind. Pharmacy school programs are three or four years of coursework that takes place after an undergraduate degree is completed. The first two to three years of pharmacy school consist of intense, high-volume, classroom learning. After pharmacy students surpass the classroom phase, their last year of pharmacy school is spent out in the real world, rotating to a new pharmacy location every six weeks, gaining hands-on experience in many different fields within the pharmacy industry. Most students will spend 12-18 weeks in a hospital setting, 12-18 weeks in a community setting (retail pharmacy) and 6-12 weeks doing something less common such as outpatient infusion, an academic rotation, nuclear pharmacy or compounding.

Compounding rotations are rare because compounding pharmacies themselves are rare. Out of a cohort of 100 students, it would be common for 5% or less to experience a compounding rotation during their last year of pharmacy school. Pharmacy students get some say in the rotations they experience by providing their preferences to the school in advance of their last year. Most students that land a compounding rotation are thrilled, as they typically have a baseline interest in compounding and do not usually receive any formal education or training in compounding from their pharmacy school.

Our pharmacy intern program at Northwest Compounders is divided into two separate phases: the compounding phase and the processing phase. Exposing interns to two separate job functions doubles the amount of exposure and experience they would otherwise receive at a more traditional internship. During the compounding phase of the internship, a dedicated technician trainer teaches student interns how to compound many of the dosage forms we compound at our pharmacy, including capsules, oral liquids, topical preparations and mini tablets. There is a wide range of techniques that must be mastered as part of their compounding training, including weighing, geometric dilution, trituration, spatulation, mixing, wetting and several others. All of these techniques are verbally taught and physically demonstrated to our interns. The interns must then demonstrate their own proficiency in these skills before advancing to the next training objective. After three weeks of intensive compounding training, our student interns are passed off to a processing pharmacist for more hands-on training in our processing area. Pharmacy interns are taught to use our pharmacy dispensing software, assist customers over the phone, take new prescriptions, recommend formulas to prescribers and provide patient consultation to both patients and pet owners.

We recently asked one of our past student interns, Sandria P., what she liked best about our two-phase internship program and this is what she had to say: “I think compounding for three weeks, then transitioning into the processing room, was brilliant, so interns get total exposure to a compounding pharmacy.” Non-compounding pharmacy intern rotations can be somewhat monolithic, focusing on only one aspect of the industry and/or one job function. Our goal for pharmacy interns at Northwest Compounders has also been to ensure that each pharmacy student leaves northwest compounders with a solid foundation of compounding knowledge and skills, as well as increased confidence in formulation building, processing, and consultation, the latter of which can be broadly applied to many pharmacist jobs across the entire industry.

The secret to creating a robust internship program is simple: it takes time and resources. Companies must be willing to provide student interns with dedicated trainers, resources, and the time and patience from their training staff. Unfortunately, the pharmacy industry is not known for having an abundance of resources and time to dedicate to student interns. Student interns often get stuck doing simple, repetitive jobs to “keep them out of the way” until their internship is over. We asked Sandria P. to compare her experience to some of the other internship experiences she had this year and this is what she shared with us: “It is totally different from retail pharmacies. While retail pharmacies are short-staffed with one pharmacist, and everything feels rushed, Northwest Compounders has more than enough pharmacists and technicians to cover each other, and everything seems organized. I never felt rushed while rotating at Northwest Compounders; it was stress-free.”

We are grateful for the opportunity to educate the next generation of pharmacists in compounding. If you are a pharmacy student or undergraduate interested in pharmaceutical compounding, please contact our Director of Training, Megan Gustafson, by email for more information.

William Kenward, CPhT

project manager

Team member since 2015

Chris Gralian, CPhT

Quality Control Lead

Team member since 2019

Rose Hood, CPhT

Quality Control Lead

Team member since 2016

Matthew Peterson, CPhT

Quality Control Lead

Team member since 2016

Helen Dubintsov, CPhT

Quality Control Lead

Team member since 2016

Shannon Kimball, PharmD

Compounding Pharmacist

Doctor of Pharmacy, Pacific University 2022

B.S. Biohealth Science, Oregon State University 2019

Team member since 2018

Mark Liu, PharmD

Compounding Pharmacist

Doctor of Pharmacy, Oregon State University 2005

BA Biology, Reed College 1998

12 years of retail experience

Team member since January 2017

Jill Snyder, RPh

Compounding Pharmacist

B.S. Pharm. 1994 Oregon State University

5 years of retail pharmacy experience

17 years of long-term care experience

Certificate in Veterinary Pharmacy, 2016

Team member since May 2016

Scott Williams, RPh

Compounding Pharmacist

B.S. Pharm. 1992 Oregon State University

24 years of experience in Retail Pharmacy

Team member since November 2015

Certificates in CPR, Diabetes Management, Immunization, Cholesterol Management and Medication Therapy Management

Bob Templin, RPh

Director of Training

B.S. Pharm. 1976 Oregon State University

Certificate in Veterinary Pharmacy, 2019

Over 37 years of pharmacy experience

Over 33 years as a Pharmacy Manager

Team member since February 2013

Megan Gustafson, PharmD

Director of Training

Doctor of Pharmacy, Oregon State University 2021

B.S. Bio-Health Sciences, Oregon State University 2017

Team member since 2016

Sam Llona, PharmD

Director of Sterile Operations

Doctor of Pharmacy, Creighton University 2019

B.S. Biology, Santa Clara University

Certificate in Aseptic Compounding, PCCA 2014

Certificate in Human Compounding, PCCA, 2016

Certificate in Veterinary Compounding, PCCA, 2017

Team member since September 2019

Vivian Pham, PharmD

Senior Operations Manager,
Director of Accounting

Doctor of Pharmacy, Oregon State University 2016

Has worked as a technician, bookkeeper, pharmacy intern and now pharmacist for Northwest Compounders

Team member since May 2008

Jessie Vo, PharmD

Pharmacy Manager,
Director of Quality Assurance

Doctor of Pharmacy, Pacific University 2011

Preceptor for Pacific University SOP, Oregon State SOP

Team member since January 2006

Luke Eilers, PharmD

Chief Executive Officer

Doctor of Pharmacy, Pacific University 2014

B.S. General Science, Oregon State University 2011

Certificate in Veterinary Pharmacy, 2018

Certificate in Basic Compounding, PCCA 2014

Certificate in Aseptic Compounding, PCCA 2014

Preceptor for Pacific University SOP, Oregon State SOP

Team member since October 2005

Tom Eilers, RPh

Founder, Chairman

B.S. Pharm. 1976 Oregon State University

Founder, Northwest Compounders 2005

Member, International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists

Member, PCCA (Professional Compounding Centers of America)

Certificate in Basic Compounding Techniques, PCCA, 2001

Certificate in Aseptic Compounding, PCCA 2005

Preceptor for Pacific University SOP, Oregon State SOP, Washington State SOP

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